Reach Your Goals By Maintaining Success Momentum

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Slight Edge" by Jeff Olson. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you always start strong at the beginning of a new endeavor but feel like your motivation wanes over time? How do you maintain success momentum?

Momentum is the forward-moving force that you build as you put consistent energy and motivation behind your goals. If you lose momentum, you’ll lose your drive to succeed and you’ll stay stuck in your current state.

In this article, you’ll learn some proven strategies for sustaining momentum.

Building Momentum

According to physics, a body in motion stays in motion, and a body at rest stays at rest. Therefore, if you want lasting success, it’s critical to keep building momentum to push towards your goals.

If you find yourself tempted to cease motion—in other words, pause progress towards your goal—Olson recommends reminding yourself what’s at stake. For example, if you’re seeking to achieve fitness goals, and you catch yourself wanting to take “just a couple days off working out,” remind yourself that continued commitment is critical to reaching your goals. If you’re truly exhausted, rather than allowing yourself to take the day entirely off, give yourself a modified exercise that day and return to your regular routine the following day. That way, you won’t lose momentum entirely. 

Using Neuroscience to Safeguard Momentum

A challenge of maintaining or building success momentum that Olson doesn’t address is the constant threat of uncertainty. You don’t know if your efforts towards your goals will be successful, and you don’t know what challenges you may encounter in the process of meeting them. 

This makes it hard to push yourself into a state of momentum (especially if you start and stop) because a key component of motivation is the dopamine released in your brain when you meet your goals. If you push yourself towards your goals but unpredictable circumstances slow your momentum or sabotage your progress, you go without that dopamine release, which makes you feel less motivated. 

You can beat this uncertainty and maintain momentum using the following three neuroscience-backed strategies:

1) Take a walk. Neuroscience research shows that forward movement in an open space combined with side-to-side eye movement is soothing to the amygdala (the part of your brain that makes you feel stressed and anxious about things like uncertainty). When you go for a walk, your eyes tend to naturally move side to side as they observe the space in front of them. 

2) Repurpose your struggle. You may not quickly be able to get a dopamine release by reaching the outcome of your goals, but you can repurpose your struggle on the way to that outcome as its own type of achievement. When you train yourself to see the pain of perseverance as progress and progress as achievement, you hack your brain into releasing dopamine and get a motivation refresh.
3) Reframe moments of uncertainty. Even though uncertainty activates the brain’s fear centers, making us want to give up and hide, this added activity in the prefrontal cortex makes uncertainty the perfect learning environment. When you reframe moments of uncertainty as learning opportunities, you provide yourself with motivation to keep pushing towards success.

Reach Your Goals By Maintaining Success Momentum

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  • Why some people fail and some succeed despite having the same tools
  • How small practices, executed consistently over time, will give you an edge
  • How you're getting in the way of your own growth by neglecting simple things

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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